My Trip Abroad 1909: John Radford Abbot’s Diary: Reflections

March 1st, 2016 by Alexia Hagler

I should start, first, by saying that I have had a truly wonderful time transcribing and blogging about this diary. This was my first time doing a transcription, and although I knew the basics of what that meant, the truth was inevitably much more stressful. I was responsible for transcribing this diary to the best of my abilities, when the diary was handwritten in cursive and the pencil was smudged after so many years and some words were illegible, so I spent a lot of my time hunched over in concentration and second guessing myself. But once the transcription was done, I was free to do essentially whatever I wanted with the blog. I could split the posts however I wanted, research whatever caught my eye in that post’s transcription.

During these weeks, I spent the majority of my time marveling at all the places John Radford Abbot went during this trip: United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy. All of these places were so different over a hundred years ago, and I wanted to see and feel that. I wanted to see how trains, which were the main form of land transportation then, could change the experience of a country in a way that planes or cars couldn’t. I wanted, especially, to capitalize on the beauty of all the places he went, the mountains and forests and cathedrals and cities, the natural and historical landmarks that should be protected and preserved at all costs.

But above all else, I wanted to learn more about John Radford Abbot. And I did. I learned that he used words like “corking” where we would use “fantastic” or “excellent”. I learned that he loved trains, because when he was in Germany and Switzerland, along with comments about the beautiful scenery, he would write about the specifics of that train (the grade, complexity, etc.). I learned that he loved to hike and climb mountains, as evidenced by his trek through Switzerland when he climbed a mountain almost every day. I learned that he was 16 years old on this trip, and was to graduate from Phillips Andover Academy the next year and continue on to Harvard College. John Radford Abbot had such a fantastic life, and I am so happy that I was able to be a part of that, even if it was over a 100 years late.

Alex Hagler


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